Eliminating Coach Speak

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I have the incredible opportunity to visit gyms all across the country. I get to see players and coaches from all levels train and play. Unfortunately, as I’ve been in thousands of gyms all over the world, there’s one consistent problem I run into almost every single time. It’s the issue of “coach speak.”

You know what I’m talking about. There are certain phrases that echo in gyms every day during the season. Phrases like:

  • “We’ve got to play harder.”
  • “No one’s communicating out there.”
  • “We need leadership right now.”
  • “Somebody’s got to step up!”

No coach is immune from the disease of coach speak.

When we break it down, coach speak is really nothing more than saying random, general things over and over again. And if we’re really honest with ourselves, the things most coaches say with coach-speak aren’t any different than what every parent and fan is also yelling from the stands.

“Teacher talk” is different. It’s a more powerful form of communication because it gets really specific about what we expect and what we are asking our players to do. Think about it like this, when you yell “We’ve got to play harder!” during a game, do your players know what you actually mean? I’ve found that most players don’t. That’s why great coaches use teacher talk to clearly define what they’re saying.

Coach speak would have us repeat things like “Hustle!” or “More effort!” over and over again. Teacher talk will help you take it a step further and might sound something like this “On every loose ball, we don’t bend over and try to pick it up. We dive on every loose ball.” Or it could be “Hey, Melissa, I want you to box out every single time. That’s playing with great effort.”

Maybe it’s a lack of leadership that hampers your team. If that’s the case, try using teacher talk when defining leadership for your players. Instead of saying to your team, “We need someone to step up and lead,” try something like this:

“We expect our leaders to get to practice early and stay late. We expect our leaders to lead by example by spending 5-10 minutes extra helping other teammates out.

Still not convinced that teacher talk is for you? Consider this – one thing I consistently hear coaches say is “My players need to talk more.” I agree with this principle, but most times, the actual problem is that players don’t know what they’re supposed to say. It’s our job as coaches to tell them what to say on defense, on offense, during dead ball time, etc.

That’s where teacher talk can make such a big difference in our programs. Now instead of simply repeating white noise, we’re giving our players the why behind what we’re telling them; and anytime you can give more why, you’ll get more buy-in from your players.

It’s time for your gym to sound different from everyone else’s. It’s time for teacher talk, not coach speak. 

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